Ray Zone, R.I.P.

Sorry to hear about the death of Ray Zone…and though I knew Ray for years, I never knew if that was his real name. It was just so perfect. I mean, if you were a guy who was obsessed with 3-D movies and 3-D comic books and you needed a new name, wouldn't "Ray Zone" be a great one for you?

That was Ray's main interest and I can't recall ever talking to him about anything else. He was probably only about half-kidding (maybe less than half) that his mission in life was to get rid of all movies and comic books that weren't in 3-D. He knew everything about the various formats and history and the processes. In fact, he invented a new process that made possible that brief glut of 3-D comics we had in the early eighties, mostly from small publishers. Previously, the making of a 3-D comic book was a messy process involving pieces of panels being drawn on different layers of acetate and then someone had to apply white paint to the back of certain layers on the acetate and then…well, it took a long time to do a page that way. Ray invented a much simpler process that involved no overlays and even made it easy to convert an existing, drawn-for-2-D comic book to 3-D. I did one with him and it was amazing how, with no real technical advances involved, he'd figured out a much faster, better technique than had been used on the original 3-D comics of the fifties. Joe Kubert, who was one of the pioneers in that field, was reportedly agog when he saw how Ray did it.

Ray died Tuesday evening at the age of 65 and I do not know the cause. I do know he was one of the good guys and I always enjoyed seeing him and talking with him. The last time that happened was about five weeks ago — on October 3rd when I went to the Cinerama Dome to see It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in its native setting. Cinerama isn't exactly 3-D but it's close and Ray was there for every screening in a lengthy film fest devoted to films made in Cinerama. He dutifully told me about the print we'd soon be seeing and the problems with it and with the projection equipment. He really, really loved movies with depth and his enthusiasm was contagious and grand.